Italian word of the day: ‘Sbagliare’

Avoid slipping up by learning this useful Italian verb.

Italian word of the day: 'Sbagliare'
Photo: DepositPhotos

If you're learning Italian, you've probably sbagliato a few times without even knowing it.

This verb might look mixed up to English speakers – a word that starts “sb”?! –  and in fact it is: sbagliare means to mess up, make a mistake, get it wrong.

And as any learner knows, there are so many things to get wrong.

Scusi, ho sbagliato numero.
Sorry, I've got the wrong number.

Non abbiamo tempo di sbagliare strada.
We don't have time to take a wrong turn.

Attenti a non sbagliare treno.
Be careful not to take the wrong train.

Hai sbagliato tutto!
You've messed everything up!

When you're not messing up something in particular, just more generally, you can use the reflexive form of the verb: sbagliarsi

Ti stai sbagliando di grosso.
You are very much mistaken.

Pensavo fosse lei, ma mi sono sbagliato.
I thought it was her, but I was mistaken.

Se mi sbaglio, sarò felice di ammetterlo.
If I'm wrong, I'll happily admit it.

You'll also see it used in its adjective form to describe something that's not quite right.

la risposta sbagliata
the wrong answer

un Negroni Sbagliato
a Mixed-up Negroni (a Negroni made with sparkling wine instead of gin)

As a question, it's also a useful way to check if you're right – or at least, if someone else thinks you are.

Ho ragione, o sbaglio?
I'm right, aren't I?

Ho sentito bene, o sbaglio?
I heard that right, didn't I?

But even when you get it wrong, don't worry: sbagliando s'impara (you learn by making mistakes). 

Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to share? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.

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Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.